Last night saw the first of two performances of Haydn’s rarely performed 1791 work Orfeo: L’anima del filosofo. I know how much effort and indeed passion went into creating this production and the singing is pretty good. I wish I could say I enjoyed it but I can’t. There were just too many issues.
Let’s start with the opera itself. Maybe it was never completely finished as it was shut down by the authorities during rehearsals in London. Maybe that’s why it feels horribly unbalanced. The first half (two acts) tell us of Eurydice being betrothed, against her will, to her father, King Creonte’s, rival Arideo. She runs off into the forest where she is about to be devoured by beasts when the news is brought to Orfeo who then sings at length before “rushing” off to rescue Euridice.
Offenbach’s La Périchole is one of his less often performed works and I think I can see why. It really isn’t as good as La Belle Hélène or Orphée aux Enfers but it has its moment and in the completely mad, over the top, utterly French treatment it got at the Opéra Comique in 2022 it’s really quite enjoyable.
I saw Fatuma Adar’s one woman show She’s Not Special presented by Nightwood Theatre and Tarragon at Tarragon Theatre last night. It’s an interesting blend of stand up, confessional and very loud music in a sort of rap meets rock vein. The comedy and the confessional element turn on the vagaries of growing up as a black Muslim woman in Canada who aspires to be a writer. Some of this stuff is familiar to anyone “in the arts”; the tick box nature of grant applications. “Tick, tick, tick… that’s sound of ticking the boxes… doesn’t work so well at the airport”. Some of t, like the throw away line there is much more about specific cultural experience. Also lots of jokes about “intersectionality”.
I don’t often get deeply emotionally affected by an opera video. Generally it’s less immersive than a live performance in a way that diminishes emotion. That wasn’t my experience though with the 2022 recording of Handel’s Theodora from the Royal Opera. Admittedly Theodora is an opera I can get very emotionally involved in but Katie Mitchell’s production really did get to me.
I sort of remember when I saw an early stage workshop of soprano Stacie Dunlop’s interpretation of Claude Vivier’s Lonely Child. I think it was back in 2019 and I remember it was in a grungy former industrial space on Sterling Road. There’s a video of/about that performance. Time has passed and the work has now been fully realised and it’s available as a 17 minute film which I’ve had a chance to watch the latter. There’s more work going on to make it the core of a longer live show.
June is fast approaching and, as ever, it’s one of the odder months in the performance calendar. Here’s what has caught my eye (so far).
June 1st to 25th at Crow’s is Alex Bulmer’s Perceptual Archaeology (Or How to Travel Blind). This is a show for blind and sighted people about, well, travelling blind (literally). Since blindness is my worst fear I don’t know whether I can do this one. We’ll see.
Spontini’s 1807 work La Vestale is the latest French opera to get the Palazzetto Bru Zane treatment. Ir’s extremely interesting as this work has a performance history not unlike the more famous Médée of Charpentier. It’s very much a tragédie lyrique in the same basic style as the works of Gluck, though with some compositional innovations that did not endear the composer to the Paris musical establishment. Indeed, but for the determined patronage of the Empress Josephine it likely would never have made it to the stage. Like Médée it was initially very successful before disappearing from the repertoire in the later 19th century. Also like Médée it was the subject of a mid 20th century revival, notably a 1954 La Scala production (in Italian) by Visconti featuring Maria Callas. Inevitably given the time and place it was given in a style that owed more to verismo than French classicism with a large modern orchestra, conventional (by 1950s standards) tempi and a rather more overblown singing style than was ever heard in early 19th century Paris. If it were revived again for major houses one imagines it would still get essentially the same treatment. Perhaps it will be the next international diva vehicle for Sondra Radvanovsky? Continue reading →
To “celebrate” it taking longer to get home from the Theatre Centre on the TTC last night than the show actually lasted here’s a little number set to a possibly recognisable tune from my favourite lunatics at Opera Revue.
And don’t forget Debauchery at the Dakota at the end of the month.
“An absurdist erotic lesbian love letter to the ocean” is how the programme describes Sara Porter’s show which opened last night at The Theatre Centre. It sums it up pretty well. Geographically it takes from a cow pond in Albertas to the Bay of Fundy and temporally from the creation of the Earth and the Moon to the present. And there’s lots of water. Continue reading →
Sarah Porter’s L-E-A-K opens tonight at the Theatre Centre and runs until Sunday. It’s described as “an absurdist and poetic lesbian love letter to the ocean”. I’m intrigued.
Nightwood Theatre and Tarragon Theatre are jointly presenting Fatima Adar’s She’s Not Special. It runs at the Tarragon Theatre from May 24th to 28th. Here’s the blurb… “Leave expectations at the door. We are not putting on a play, we are throwing a party. This is a concert, comedy show, and confessional all in one. Come celebrate your mediocrity with us!”
Soulpepper are opening a run of Athol Fugard’s 1972 classic Sizwe Banzi is Dead at the Young Centre on the 25th. That runs until June 18th.